March, 20 2023
Derrick Brooks arrived at Florida State with a clearly defined goal, but one which required years of perseverance and dedication to achieve. “All I wanted was to prove one fact,” the College Football Hall of Famer recounted. “That you can be a successful student as well as a successful athlete and excel at both.” Brooks achieved his goal, graduating from Florida State with a bachelor’s degree in just three-and-a-half years. He was named GTE Academic All-American twice and honored as one of the NCAA’s Top Eight, an honor recognizing achievement in academics, athletics, and leadership.
Brooks was awarded a National Football Foundation post-graduate scholarship. He put that to good use, returning to FSU and obtaining a master’s degree while playing for the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers. “Your education is the foundation you stand on,” Brooks told The Player’s Tribune. “It’s not something you fall back on when something else doesn’t work out.”
Football worked out for Derrick Brooks as well. In four years at Florida State, the Pensacola native was twice a consensus All-American at linebacker and the 1993 ACC Defensive Player of the Year. Brooks came to FSU as a safety and transitioned to linebacker. Undersized at 210-pounds as a sophomore, he added 15 pounds of muscle before his junior season. The grueling workouts paid off as Brooks recorded 77 tackles, including seven for loss during the Seminole’s national championship season. Interception returns for touchdowns against Duke and North Carolina showcased his speed. In the title game against Nebraska, Brooks and his defensive teammates held Tommie Frazier and the Cornhuskers, a team that would win the next two national titles, in check during an 18-16 victory.
Brooks intercepted three passes as a senior and recorded 67 tackles. The Seminoles did not repeat as national champions, but in a Sugar Bowl rematch with heated rival Florida, Brooks had eight solo tackles and forced a turnover in the Seminoles’ 23-17 victory. The win capped a Florida State undergraduate career in which Brooks maximized his time on the field and in the classroom.